Day 100 11/19/15
Blink, blink. Squinting through puffy eyes, I see the side of the tent. Ahh! I SEE the side of the tent!! My heart races. I sit straight up. Last night I didn’t set an alarm, and awoke in a panic as it was starting to get light out. Then I remembered, it’s alright. We planned this. Today we only have 30 miles to go, and we needed a late start anyway due to rain. I look over and see Biscuit taking up half Mark’s pad, and Junebug is snuggling my side. Mark looks over and does his half smile thing, takes his pillow and hands it to me. I scoot in closer using his pillow to lay next to him and Biscuit. I hear his breathing slow and deepen, my eyes start to flutter closed, I notice a giant leaf on the top of the tent, and it makes me smile as I drift to sleep again. We have seen a season change on this trip.
Wait, what was that?! I’m jolted awake. No, calm down girl it was probably your hair falling onto your arm. Go back to sleep. Ahh! No it wasn’t my hair! I sit straight up and fling whatever unknown object off my arm. Frantically look around, there it is! A spider! Grabbing the closest object to me, I smash him… With Mark’s pillow. Mark: “Hey! Don’t use my pillah.” (Yeah, pillah, in his southern accent, which made me laugh hysterically) Me: “well what should I have used?!” “How about any other thing in here but my pillah….wait! he’s not dead!!! Squish him again” so I get him again … yup, with the pillah! “No!! Why??” “Shut up! I just saved your life”. Laughter is Junebug’s favorite thing, so she runs up to our face and starts giving us kisses. What a great way to start the morning.
We decided since we had a shorter day today, we could have breakfast at camp. Yay!! A real meal!!! We look around at our rain soaked camp and decide to make a break for it. So over to the screened in front porch of the empty cabin rental next to our campsite we go…Stealthily… You know as stealthy as we can get with two people in high-vis carrying two big, white, reflective bags, two dogs, a blanket, and an armful of water bottles. I make oatmeal for me and granola for him. Biscuit and Junebug are at our feet. As I’m sitting in a rocking chair looking out to the river, sipping a hot cup of instant coffee, I’m smiling. It’s rare for us to enjoy a breakfast together. One of the things I enjoy about this trip is the different facets it brings. We enjoy things more deeply because we have gone without. We enjoy these crisp mornings because we have endured brutal heat. We enjoy a hot breakfast because with our 2:30 wake-ups, there is usually only time for a protein bar. We cannot know light without dark. We have become even more grateful for even simple things.
We wash dishes in the spigot outside, and repack the bags. Just as we are headed out the door, the ranger pulls up to kick us out. Guess we weren’t that stealthy. We can’t be in the porch with dogs. There are so many aspects of this trip that are complicated because we have them with, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We carry 30lbs of dog food, a 150lb cart, and we can’t see many of the sights along the way, eat out, or stay in an actual bed. But I look down at those two waggy tails and see so much joy. They are family, and we simply wouldn’t be on this adventure without them too. We wave to the ranger, drop things at the tent (to avoid any additional squirrel incidents), and head off on our walk. A couple miles will do us all good- we have had some long days, with intense hills that have fatigued our muscles. Our legs are tight, our bodies stiff. This walk loosens us up and prepares us for the day ahead. The dogs are enjoying the cooler weather, tails up, noses down. Exploring. Adventuring in their own way. The trees are canopying over, and the leaves are falling gently and slowly like red, yellow, and brown snowflakes. Stillness. Silence. Walking side by side. We check the radar, as we do several times each day. Oh no! Rain is coming. “C’mon puppies, time to head back to camp”. We walk briskly, intently. Mark and I both know our gear in every detail, where everything goes, and how to efficiently get it where it needs to be. So we start moving in a rhythm. Putting away two pads, two sleeping bags, “pillahs”, dog blanket, dog pads, panniers stuffed and back on the bikes, bikes unlocked, seats uncovered, tent tore down. It’s starting to rain so we stuff the last of the items into the trailer and walk the bikes up to the covered picnic pavilion. We take turns changing into bike gear, and putting the last of the items away. Check radar one more time, and head out. The campground is 3 miles into the park and the park is 2 miles off course. Uphill! It takes us nearly an hour to get on course again, the rain is coming down. I look down at the water running off my handlebar bag, my glasses are fogged with humidity and raindrops make it hard to see, and I smile, thinking of how perfectly suited our gear is for all weather conditions. We anticipated the circumstances and put a plan in place in advance, which is how we remove the power of “excuse”. When we want something bad enough, nothing can stop us, not even rain. We stop under the overhang at a gas station and as Mark is buttoning up the waterproof panels of the puppy wagon, we are greeted by a man with one leg. Jeff explains he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and of it he says “but if we live our life in fear of what could happen, we aren’t really living”. I reflected on that for the next 25 miles. To really live is to be free. Free from fear. Free from attachments. Free to be. To do. To live. We are free. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and if I am not granted one more day, I know I fully lived, because if even for a moment, I was free.
Older Gentleman in a Dollar General parking lot: “You realize, not a lot of people get a chance in life to do something like your trip that they really want to do.”
Us: “Yes sir, yes we do.”
We have officially crossed the 2,000 mile point! Each time we tick over another grand on the odometers, it feels like a good time to take a quiet moment (after the hollering and the fist bumps) to simply be appreciative of the chance to do this trip and have a capable mind and body to complete it. Nothing is taken for granted. Not by us. Life can change in a heartbeat, we both know that all too well, but one thing won’t ever change…the fact that this little 12-legged family has done 2,000 miles! On BICYCLES! The experiences, memories, sights, scars and tan lines are our proof. And our gear! Wow, we’ve aged our gear more in three months than most people do in three years. The result is a beautiful and well-earned, hard used patina on everything we carry with us. The scorch marks on the cook stove, the rust and rub marks on our bike racks, the dirt and insect gut stains on the tent. All of it is part of the shared experience that is this adventure. If you see us out on the road now, all of us, gear, canine and humans, look the part. With smiles and waggy tails too. And the odometers keep ticking away…bring on the next 1,000!
Now for some very important news…the weather has finally turned! During this entire trip, we only saw two evenings that dipped below 70 degrees. Then last week we woke up to 48! Junebug was the happiest about this situation, running around like a crazy dog that got ahold of some espresso. Poor Biscuit hasn’t yet put on his full winter coat, so he needs to be snuggled a little more than usual (if that’s even possible). As for the people, we haven’t yet fully swapped out our summer gear for winter gear, so those kind of mornings involve a little dancing and shivering. We welcome the change. Living outside, we get to see all the cycles in a very intimate way. The daily cycle of the sun, monthly cycle of the moon, and the changing of seasons. It’s a very connected way of living, and we feel not only more in tune with our surroundings, but we feel richer for being outside rather than in. Still, brrr. Does the campground have a hand warmer, I mean dryer in the bathroom?!
Daylight savings and the shorter days are turning us into some odd ducks too. We start getting the circus shut down for the night at 5:30 because that is when the sunsets! Yawns start at 5:45. Dogs stare longingly at the tent by 6:00. Part of this is that we are still riding early, though not as early as before. The time zone change as we head west will impact us too. The sun will set at 4:30! Eeek! We’ll be asleep by 6. That’s probably not much of a joke. Really.
Early in the trip, we rode a lot of miles per week, especially across SC and GA. In FL, we slowed down considerably to enjoy time with friends and family, and to see some of the sights. We are now gearing back up to start putting in bigger miles, and as of this post have at least five straight days of riding planned before pondering a break. All in all though, we aren’t in a hurry and are certainly not trying to set any records. It just feels good to be rolling. And that’s what we call freedom.
Mark, Georgia, Junebug and Biscuit